Like much of the world, I’ve been in isolation for weeks with my family. My husband goes grocery shopping every Monday evening (when there seem to be fewer shoppers); we do a pickup from a local restaurant every Thursday night; and we’ve yell-chatted from fifty feet away with some friends who live nearby. Otherwise, we’ve had almost no contact with others.
I’ve spent a good portion of every day feeling very thankful, and incredibly lucky. So many lives have been lost, and many many more turned upside down, because of COVID-19, while the biggest challenges I've faced have been adjusting to working from home, overseeing my kids' virtual learning, and deciding what to make for dinner.
In the moments when guilt starts to creep into my consciousness, I try to remind myself that it’s unproductive even when things are great, let alone during a crisis. Any time I spend wallowing is wasted time. My job is to take care of my family, a business I believe is actually helping people, and others who are suffering far more than I am.
One thing is certain: I could not do that job right now if it weren’t for the wisdom and creativity of other people. So many of the rituals we’ve adopted to add structure to our daily routine, so many of the games and projects we’ve been doing to fill our time and keep from biting each other’s heads off, so many of the amazing organizations and resources we’ve learned about, have come from others—primarily through Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, video calls with colleagues and friends, Houseparty chats, email newsletters, or some other digital source. (Isn’t it funny that the internet, lately painted as the death of real human connection, is now the primary tool we all have to stay connected?)
Regardless of reopening timelines, it’s likely we’ll all be spending a lot more time at home for the foreseeable future. In the spirit of paying it forward, I thought I’d share some of the things we’ve been doing in hopes they might be helpful to someone else.
I've organized everything into three buckets, although several could fit into more than one: Ways to get food on the table, ways to pass the time (and stay sane), and ways to help others. I’ve been taking a lot more photos than usual so that we never forget this time—as precious as it is painful—and I’ll share some of them here.
To get food on the table, I’ve been...
- Trying my hand at baking my own bread, like the rest of the world. Recipes I’ve been relying on for this include: 5 Minute Artisan Bread, Irish Brown Soda Bread, Bon Appétit’s Corn Muffins (which I made in loaf form, without the corn kernels), King Arthur Flour’s French-Style Country Bread, Cream Biscuits.
Making my own ricotta for a serious step up from our usual, thanks to Jennifer Perillo’s fantastic recipe.
Simplifying meal planning by designating certain nights each week to a specific theme or food type: Pizza and Movie Night (this seventy-two hour pizza dough recipe is our favorite, with Roberta’s a close second), Leftovers Night, Support a Local Restaurant Night.
Eating breakfast for dinner. We’ve only done this once so far, but it was a big hit. The recipe for Mrslarkin’s Magical Buttermilk Pancakes doubles as both pancake and waffle batter, pleasing those on both sides of this deeply polarizing debate.
Cooking a double recipe of certain staple dishes and freezing half for another time: Chicken with Mustard and Red Peppers, Pork Shoulder Ragu, Marcella Hazan's Tomato Sauce With Onion & Butter, and The Stew are a few of our stand-bys.
- Delegating grill/smoker duty to my husband on a regular basis. He made some delicious smoked ribs using Jake Levin’s excellent barbecue rub from his cookbook, Smokehouse Handbook.
To pass the time (& stay sane), I’ve been...
- Taking socially distant beach walks. We try to get to the beach—which has been quiet—most days for a stroll and some play time, collecting shells and other treasures to bring home for craft projects and building stick huts.
Making window art.
Cultivating a kitchen garden from seeds and vegetable scraps.
Assembling fruit monsters, thanks to wonderful, quirky Curious Jane.
Puzzles, puzzles, and more puzzles! We love lighthouses, and our favorite so far is a Lighthouses of New Jersey puzzle.
Following our friend Erica Cerulo's IG stories, which are chock-full of adorable animal photos guaranteed to improve your mood.
Building epic train tracks that go all around our living room (maneuvering around lots of pillow-and-blanket forts).
Taking lots of baths. I’ve always enjoyed a nice hot bath, and recently it’s really become a ritual. I always add something to make the bath smell nice and keep my skin from drying out. Since my stock of bath salts and oils has been waning rapidly, I’ve started making my own bath salts using different essential oils.
Sampling a host of new beauty products, thanks to my friend Jessica Richards of Shen Beauty, who sent me a massive care package along with my order of some face cream.
Reading for my now-virtual book club. Next up: Lady in Waiting. For fans of The Crown, this is the autobiography of Anne Glenconner, lady-in-waiting to Princess Margaret, who featured prominently in season 3 of the show.
Finally getting a DOG! Scooter, a thirteen-week old Cavachon puppy, arrived a couple weeks ago and already, we can’t imagine life without him.
To help others, I’ve been...
- Supporting small businesses. I’ve tried to source as many ingredients and supplies as possible from places like Janie's Mill (for organic flours and grains), The Rice Factory (for specialty Japanese rice and pantry items), and our local family-owned grocer for staples, prepared foods and deli items.
Sending food to healthcare workers. Many restaurants that have stayed open for delivery are offering ways for anyone to purchase and donate food to local hospitals. Mexicue has taco kits available for donation if you order online; JJ Johnson’s rice spot, Field Trip, is offering the option to purchase meals for first responders; Mimi Cheng’s has a GoFundMe page where you can donate to “Dumplings for Doctors,” and help provide meals and drinks to hospital workers.
Volunteering and/or donating food and supplies to help those in need. There are new opportunities every day, but here are some great organizations to consider:
The recently launched America’s Food Fund is working with World Central Kitchen, Feeding America, and several other national organizations to help ensure that all Americans have reliable access to food.
Save With Stories is offering story readings on Instagram and Facebook to entertain kids at home and raise money for Save the Children and No Kid Hungry, two orgs that are providing food and educational resources to kids in need across the US and beyond.
NY Common Pantry is dedicated to reducing hunger in NYC and has distributed more than 300,000 meals to date during the COVID-19 crisis.
In It Together NYC connects healthy New Yorkers with food pantries at risk of closing due to lack of volunteers.
Wellness in the Schools typically partners with public schools across the US to create “healthier environments for children to learn and grow;” they are now diverting resources in order to feed thousands of people a week in NYC.
Massachusetts COVID-19 Relief Fun, newly launched by First Lady Lauren Baker and One8 Foundation, has raised $23M to support Massachusetts residents most impacted by the crisis, including essential workers, homeless and food insecure populations, and working families in need.
Greater Chicago Food Depository is Chicago’s food bank, a hub for more than 700 food pantries, soup kitchens, shelters and other programs providing nutritious food for hungry people.
A New Way to Dinner, co-authored by Food52's founders Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, is an indispensable playbook for stress-free meal-planning (hint: cook foundational dishes on the weekend and mix and match ‘em through the week).Order now